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seat of the pants, by the

Using intuition and improvisation rather than method or experience, as in He ran the business by the seat of his pants. This expression was invented by World War II fliers, who used it to describe flying when instruments were not working or weather interfered with visibility. It was transferred to broader use soon after the war.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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